Now, Dismiss Your Servant

December 29, 2022
The Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/122922.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, as I begin to create today’s reflection, Pope Francis has asked the world to pray for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI who is mortally ill. Perhaps by the time you red this, God will already have taken Benedict home. If so, may he rest in peace.


Today’s readings fit so well for this moment for Benedict and for the Church. Our first reading offers us John’s perfect honesty and simplicity:

Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not keep his commandments
is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
But whoever keeps his word,
the love of God is truly perfected in him.
This is the way we may know that we are in union with him:
whoever claims to abide in him ought to walk just as he walked.

1 John 2:5-6

Yes, it’s that simple and that hard!


It is so fitting that as we pray Pope Benedict home to heaven, we meet Simeon in our Gospel. He speaks with the holy confidence of a long and well-lived life. His lifelong dream was that he might not die before seeing the Messiah. That dream now fulfilled, Simeon intones one of the most beautiful prayers in Scripture:

Lord, now let your servant go in peace;
your word has been fulfilled:
my own eyes have seen the salvation
which you prepared in the sight of every people,
a light to reveal you to the nations
and the glory of your people Israel.

Luke 2: 29-32

If we live by the Light, we too will see the Messiah within our own life’s experiences. We too will come to our final days confident and blessed by that enduring recognition.

For as John also assures us:

Whoever says they are in the light,
yet hates their brother or sister is still in the darkness.
But whoever loves their brother and sister remains in the light …

1 John 2:9-10

Let’s pray today for those all who are dying, that they may know this kind of peace, especially for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

Let us pray for ourselves, that when our time comes, we too may experience this confidence.


Poetry: Nunc Dimittis – Joseph Brodsky  
(from Joseph Brodsky, A Part of Speech by George L. Kline (NY: Noonday, 1996)
The poem is long but exceptionally beautiful. I hope you can take the time to enjoy it.


‘Nunc Dimittis’

When Mary first came to present the Christ Child
to God in His temple, she found—of those few
who fasted and prayed there, departing not from it—
devout Simeon and the prophetess Anna.

The holy man took the Babe up in his arms.
The three of them, lost in the grayness of dawn,
now stood like a small shifting frame that surrounded
the Child in the palpable dark of the temple.

The temple enclosed them in forests of stone.
Its lofty vaults stooped as though trying to cloak
the prophetess Anna, and Simeon, and Mary—
to hide them from men and to hide them from Heaven.

And only a chance ray of light struck the hair
of that sleeping Infant, who stirred but as yet
was conscious of nothing and blew drowsy bubbles;
old Simeon's arms held him like a stout cradle.

It had been revealed to this upright old man
that he would not die until his eyes had seen
the Son of the Lord. And it thus came to pass. And
he said: ‘Now, O Lord, lettest thou thy poor servant,

according to thy holy word, leave in peace,
for mine eyes have witnessed thine offspring: he is
thy continuation and also the source of
thy Light for idolatrous tribes, and the glory

of Israel as well.' The old Simeon paused.
The silence, regaining the temple's clear space
oozed from all its corners and almost engulfed them,
and only his echoing words grazed the rafters,

to spin for a moment, with faint rustling sounds,
high over their heads in the tall temple's vaults,
akin to a bird that can soar, yet that cannot
return to the earth, even if it should want to.

A strangeness engulfed them. The silence now seemed
as strange as the words of old Simeon's speech.
And Mary, confused and bewildered, said nothing—
so strange had his words been. He added, while turning

directly to Mary: ‘Behold, in this Child,
now close to thy breast, is concealed the great fall
of many, the great elevation of others,
a subject of strife and a source of dissension,

and that very steel which will torture his flesh
shall pierce through thine own soul as well. And that wound
will show to thee, Mary, as in a new vision
what lies hidden, deep in the hearts of all people.’

He ended and moved toward the temple's great door.
Old Anna, bent down with the weight of her years,
and Mary, now stooping gazed after him, silent.
He moved and grew smaller, in size and in meaning,

to these two frail women who stood in the gloom.
As though driven on by the force of their looks,
he strode through the cold empty space of the temple
and moved toward the whitening blur of the doorway.

The stride of his old legs was steady and firm.
When Anna's voice sounded behind him, he slowed
his step for a moment. But she was not calling
to him; she had started to bless God and praise Him.

The door came still closer. The wind stirred his robe
and fanned at his forehead; the roar of the street,
exploding in life by the door of the temple,
beat stubbornly into old Simeon's hearing.

He went forth to die. It was not the loud din
of streets that he faced when he flung the door wide,
but rather the deaf-and-dumb fields of death's kingdom.
He strode through a space that was no longer solid.

The rustle of time ebbed away in his ears.
And Simeon's soul held the form of the Child—
its feathery crown now enveloped in glory—
aloft, like a torch, pressing back the black shadows,

to light up the path that leads into death's realm,
where never before until this present hour
had any man managed to lighten his pathway.
The old man's torch glowed and the pathway grew wider.

Music:  Nyne Otpushchayeshi ~Sergei Rachmaninoff (translated Nunc Dimittis, Now Let Your Servant Go). This was sung at Rachmaninoff’s funeral, at his prior request. 

Pure Gold

Friday of the Fourth Week of Advent
December 23, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/122322.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Malachi preaches the news of God’s Coming with dramatic authority! He tells us that the Lord is sending a messenger, somewhat in the mode of John the Baptist, to prepare the Lord’s way.

 Thus says the Lord GOD:
Lo, I am sending my messenger
    to prepare the way before me;
And suddenly there will come to the temple
    the LORD whom you seek,
And the messenger of the covenant whom you desire.
    Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.
But who will endure the day of his coming?
    And who can stand when he appears?

Malachi 3:1-4

The passage is so dramatic that it inspired Handel to include it in his magnificent “Messiah”. Handel captures Malachi’s ominous tone, asking the key question: Who shall abide the day of his coming?

These are words of purification and judgement, with tiny tinges of fire and brimstone! Indeed the Lord’s coming is often stunningly fast and awesome. Just last week, our dear Sister Rosemary Herron passed away suddenly and unexpectedly while enjoying a holiday evening. Her death left all who knew her in a state of utter shock and heartbreak.


As we read Malachi today, we might wonder, “Was she ready?” Could she “withstand the Day of His Coming”? What was it like to have her world spun from earth to heaven in the matter of a few moments?

The second part of our reading gives us an answer.

Lo, I will send you
    Elijah, the prophet,
Before the day of the LORD comes,
    the great and terrible day,
To turn the hearts of the parents to their children,
    and the hearts of the children to their parents,

Lest I come and strike
    the land with doom.

Malachi 3:23-24

If our hearts have been turned toward one another in this world, and if our time on earth has been spent in so turning others, then the Lord’s coming is not a “terrible day”. As Malachi alludes, our lives refine us like gold or silver. At the Lord’s coming, these precious elements will be tested.

  • Did we love inclusively?
  • Did we turn others toward love?
  • Did we try to turn the selfish worldly tide toward love?

All who knew Sister Rosemary know that she was pure gold, already refined by her lifelong choice to be Mercy in the world. That’s what makes her sudden passing so very difficult to cope with. But for Rosemary, that Divine Coming must have been a glorious surprise when she no doubt heard the words of Matthew’s Gospel:

Then the King will say to those on his right,
‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance,
the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat,
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
I was a stranger and you invited me in,
I needed clothes and you clothed me,
I was sick and you looked after me,
I was in prison and you came to visit me.

Matthew 25:34-36

Perhaps all of you kind readers would offer a prayer of consolation today for our Sister Rosemary’s family and friends, for her beloved school community at Mercy Career and Technical High School, for her religious community – the Sisters of Mercy, and for the many people she influenced throughout her very generous life.


R. Alleluia, alleluia.
O King of all nations and keystone of the Church;
come and save your beloved, whom you formed from the dust!
R. Alleluia, alleluia.


Poetry: Good-bye Poem – Meg Bowman

Life is but weak if we waste it in weeping:
So, she has left you, she would soon or late.
Death from our lives takes all in her keeping,
Nothing we do can our sorrow abate.
Love, be it ever so deep and entire,
Asks that we strive for the end that she sought:
Catch the tossed torch! Take up the fire!
Light up our world, and teach as she taught.

Music: We Miss You by Eternity

Out of Gloom, LIGHT!

Friday of the First Week of Advent
December 2, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/120222.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Isaiah once again promises light despite the darkness, understanding despite the emptiness, life despite the devastating hold of poverty.

Thus says the Lord GOD:
But a very little while,
and Lebanon shall be changed into an orchard,
and the orchard be regarded as a forest!
On that day the deaf shall hear
the words of a book;
And out of gloom and darkness,
the eyes of the blind shall see.
The lowly will ever find joy in the LORD,
and the poor rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.

Isaiah 29:18-19

Isaiah’s promises shone a beacon of hope to the oppressed people of his time. As I pray with his words today, I am deeply aware of the oppressions of our own time and the people who suffer under them.

Over the course of these days, I am praying with a delegation of people currently in Central America to remember, bless, learn from, and bear witness to the lives of four martyrs.


http://www.share-elsalvador.org/el-salvador-and-honduras-roses-delegation.html


The Roses in December delegation marks the 42nd anniversary of the martyrdom of four U.S. women religious. On December 2, 1980, members of the U.S.-trained-Salvadoran National Guard raped and killed lay worker Jean Donovan, Maryknoll Sisters Ita Ford, MM, and Maura Clarke, MM, and Ursuline Sister Dorothy Kazel, OSU. The women had been accompanying the Salvadoran people displaced by war and poverty. Their witness cost them their lives. Their deaths shook the world and were emblematic of the violence suffered by the Salvadoran people and the power of accompaniment.

These women lived with the kind of hope and faith Isaiah describes. It is an active faith necessary in all times because, sadly, in all times there will be brutal and inhuman oppression of the vulnerable by the powerful. These woman chose to stand for the Gospel instead.


During an earlier anniversary of the Roses in December event, social justice activist Jean Stolkan asked the question, “What do these women call us to today?” Jean served in El Salvador herself and has continued to advocate for human rights and social justice. Jean is currently Social Justice Coordinator for the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. She offered these insights in answer to her question:

The challenges we face today are different from the challenges we faced when the four church women died. They call for new perspectives and new structures, new vision and new social movements to adequately respond to the need for justice for present and future generations.

Today our hearts go out to the peoples of El Salvador and Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico, as they struggle with basic issues of survival and rebuilding of their lives after so many disasters: hurricanes and earthquakes, but also violence and poverty. We pray for an outpouring of compassion and solidarity, that we may continue to address in systemic ways the underlying human failings – structural poverty, racism, violation of human rights, destruction of the environment – that these and other natural and human disasters unmask with such brutal clarity.

Please join your own prayer today
for a new flowering of social justice,
respect for human rights,
and a mutual reverence for our common home
as we remember these valiant Gospel women.

Poetry: El Salvador – Javier Zamora

( Poet Javier Zamora was born in the small El Salvadoran coastal fishing town of La Herradura and immigrated to the United States at the age of nine, joining his parents in California. He earned a BA at the University of California-Berkeley and an MFA at New York University and was a 2016-2018 Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University.)

Salvador, if I return on a summer day, so humid my thumb
will clean your beard of  salt, and if  I touch your volcanic face,

kiss your pumice breath, please don’t let cops say: he’s gangster.
Don’t let gangsters say: he’s wrong barrio. Your barrios

stain you with pollen, red liquid pollen. Every day cops
and gangsters pick at you with their metallic beaks,

and presidents, guilty. Dad swears he’ll never return,
Mom wants to see her mom, and in the news:

every day black bags, more and more of us leave. Parents say:
don’t go; you have tattoos. It’s the law; you don’t know

what law means there. ¿But what do they know? We don’t
have greencards. Grandparents say: nothing happens here.

Cousin says: here, it’s worse. Don’t come, you could be    ...    
Stupid Salvador, you see our black bags,

our empty homes, our fear to say: the war has never stopped,
and still you lie and say: I’m fine, I’m fine,

but if  I don’t brush Abuelita’s hair, wash her pots and pans,
I cry. Like tonight, when I wish you made it

easier to love you, Salvador. Make it easier
to never have to risk our lives.

Music: El Salvador – Peter, Paul and Mary

“El Salvador” is a 1982 protest song about United States involvement in the Salvadoran Civil War, written by Noel Paul Stookey and performed by Peter, Paul and Mary. The song originally appeared on the 1986 album No Easy Walk To Freedom.

There’s a sunny little country south of Mexico
Where the winds are gentle and the waters flow
But breezes aren’t the only things that blow in El Salvador

If you took the little lady for a moonlight drive
Odds are still good you’d come back alive
But everyone is innocent until they arrive in El Salvador

If the rebels take a bus on the grand highway
The government destroys a village miles away
The man on the radio says: “now, we’ll play South of the Border”

And in the morning the natives say
“We’re happy you have lived another day
Last night a thousand more passed away in El Salvador”
Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh
Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh

There’s a television crew here from ABC
Filming Rio Lempe and the refugees
Calling murdered children: “The Tragedy of El Salvador”

Before the government camera twenty feet away
Another man is asking for continued aid
Food and medicine and hand grenades for El Salvador

There’s a thump, a rumble, and the buildings sway
A soldier fires the acid spray
The public address system starts to play: “South of the Border”

You run for cover and hide your eyes
You hear the screams from paradise
They’ve fallen further than you realize in El Salvador
La la la, la la la la
La la la, la la la la la
Ooh, ooh ooh ooh ooh

Just like Poland is protected by her Russian friends
The junta is assisted by Americans
And if sixty million dollars seems too much to spend in El Salvador

They say for half a billion they could do it right
Bomb all day and burn all night
Until there’s not a living thing upright in El Salvador

And they’ll continue training troops in the USA
And watch the nuns that got away
And teach the military bands to play: “South of the Border”

Killed the people to set them free
Who put this price on their liberty
Don’t you think it’s time to leave El Salvador?
Oh, oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh, oh oh, oh oh oh oh oh

Remembering ..

All Souls Day
November 2, 2022

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we remember the beloved Holy Souls who have gone before us. They are never far from us. Some of us may visit cemeteries today. Some will place a list of names upon the altar. But all of us will whisper their names: grandparents, parents, spouses, children, brothers, sisters and beloved friends — meeting each name in a sacred memory.

Romans6_8 All Souls

May those memories, whatever they contain, be transformed by our loving prayers. May whatever grief remains in us be blessed by the grace of faith and thanksgiving. And may the Holy Ones we honor today brighten us with some of their overwhelming Eternal Light in God.


Poetry: All Souls Day – Frances Bellerby, (1899–1975) was an English poet, novelist and short story writer. “Her poetry is imbued with a spiritual awareness encoded through the natural environment while her political socialism is more evident in her prose”. (from The Encyclopedia of British Women’s Writing – Jane Dowson)

Let’s go our old way
by the stream, and kick the leaves
as we always did, to make
the rhythm of breaking waves.

This day draws no breath –
shows no colour anywhere
except for the leaves – in their death
brilliant as never before.

Yellow of Brimstone Butterfly,
brown of Oak Eggar Moth –
you’d say. And I’d be wondering why
a summer never seems lost

if two have been together
witnessing the variousness of light,
and the same two in lustreless November
enter the year’s night…

The slow-worm stream – how still!
Above that spider’s unguarded door,
look – dull pearls…Time’s full,
brimming, can hold no more.

Next moment (we well know,
my darling, you and I)
what the small day cannot hold
must spill into eternity.

So perhaps we should move cat-soft
meanwhile, and leave everything unsaid,
until no shadow of risk can be left
of disturbing the scatheless dead.

Ah, but you were always leaf-light.
And you so seldom talk
as we go. But there at my side
through the bright leaves you walk.

And yet – touch my hand
that I may be quite without fear,
for it seems as if a mist descends,
and the leaves where you walk do not stir.

Music: Lux Aeterna- Eternal Light – Michael Hoppé

Lux aeterna
Lux aeterna luceat eis, Domine,
cum sanctis tuis in aeternum,
quia pius es.

Requiem aeternam
dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.

May light eternal shine upon them, O Lord,
with Your saints forever,
for You are Mercy.

Eternal rest
give to them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.

Run the Race

Memorial of Saint Peter Claver, Priest
September 9, 2022

May we begin today with a prayer of gratitude and respect
for the remarkable life of service of

Queen Elizabeth II

sketch for the Queen’s Jubilee by Eleanor Tomlinson

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/090922.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, there is a powerful urgency in Paul’s preaching.

Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race,
but only one wins the prize?
Run so as to win.
Every athlete exercises discipline in every way.
They do it to win a perishable crown,
but we an imperishable one.
Thus I do not run aimlessly;
I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing.
No, I drive my body and train it,
for fear that, after having preached to others,
I myself should be disqualified.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Let’s face it: Paul must have been a seriously intense guy. I mean look at his life! Early on, he took it on himself to personally go around “murderously” persecuting Christians. He got knocked off his high horse in a bolt from heaven, was struck blind, cured, and converted. This man did not live a laid-back life!

Conversion of Paul – Caravaggio

In today’s scripture, Paul tells the Corinthians to have an equal passion in living out their Christian faith. He describes his own complete dedication and chosen sacrifices to live and preach Christ’s message, saying:

All this I do for the sake of the Gospel,
so that I too may have a share in it.

In our Gospel, Jesus says that to live the faith sincerely, we must be rid of anything that blinds us. Paul got his corrected vision in a lightning induced horse-fall. Maybe we need similar drama to achieve ours. Or maybe we just need to consistently place our judgements, beliefs, passions, and convictions before God humbly asking for the grace of discernment.

Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye,
but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?
How can you say to your brother,
“Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,’”
when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye?
You hypocrite!  Remove the wooden beam from your eye first;
then you will see clearly
to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye.”


Poetry: The Racer – John Masefield

And as he landed I beheld his soul
Kindle, because, in front, he saw the Straight
With all its thousands roaring at the goal,
He laughed, he took the moment for his mate.
I saw the racer coming to the jump,
Staring with fiery eyeballs as he rusht,
I heard the blood within his body thump,
I saw him launch, I heard the toppings crusht.
Would that the passionate moods on which we ride
Might kindle thus to oneness with the will;
Would we might see the end to which we stride,
And feel, not strain, in struggle, only thrill.
And laugh like him and know in all our nerves
Beauty, the spirit, scattering dust and turves.

Music: Chariots of Fire – Vangelis

God bless Queen Elizabeth II
who has faithfully run the race.
May she rest in peace.

Alleluia: Lost and Found

Friday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time
August 19, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/081922.cfm

Alleluia, alleluia.
Teach me your paths, my God,
guide me in your truth.

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with our Alleluia Verse and Psalm 107, grateful chants to God’s Mercy from the lost who have been found.

There are all kinds of “lost”. 

There are small “losts” like when I misinterpret my GPS and keep hearing “Recalculating route…”. 

Then there are huge “losts” like when a beloved dies and our life’s anchor breaks.

This morning’s psalm and reading are speaking of a particular kind of “lost”, one that comes from wandering away from Love, for whatever reason that happens to us.


As I pray these readings, the face of a good high school friend comes to mind. Judy was a super basketball player. Everything about her was vigor, coordination, and that all-American beauty that needed no makeup to impress anybody.

After graduation, I went into the silence of the pre-Vatican II convent and Judy disappeared into her future. When our five-year class reunion rolled around, I looked forward to reconnecting with her.

When I saw her, my heart broke. She was a shadow of herself, emaciated, listless, and lightless. She silently shouted a refrain like today’s verse from Ezekiel:

Our bones are dried up,
our hope is lost, and we are cut off.

We were both twenty-three years old. I was just beginning to grow into my hopes. Judy was already divorced, alone, and the mother of a father-starved child.

That kind of “lost” feels almost irredeemable. 


But Psalm 107 assures us that, in faith, no loss, no alienation is irredeemable.

They cried to the LORD in their distress;
from their straits God rescued them.
And led them by a direct way
to the healing of community.


Judy and I stayed in touch for a few years. Despite her troubles, she kept faith. That was the key.

Alleluia, alleluia.
Teach me your paths, my God,
guide me in your truth.

She did the hard work to find herself again with the help of family, friends, counselors, and a supportive faith community. Eventually, she remarried and was happy the last time I saw her before she moved to the west coast.


This morning, I see such apparent parallels between Israel’s and Judy’s story. That helps me look back over my own life for the same, perhaps not so dramatic, parallels and to be grateful for the many times God found me.

Let them give thanks for God’s Mercy
and wondrous deeds to us,
Because God has satisfied the longing soul
and filled the hungry heart with good things.


Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.com

Poetry: Lost – Carl Sandburg

Desolate and lone 
All night long on the lake 
Where fog trails and mist creeps, 
The whistle of a boat 
Calls and cries unendingly, 
Like some lost child 
In tears and trouble 
Hunting the harbor’s breast 
And the harbor’s eyes. 


Music: Amazing Grace – Sean Clive

Alleluia: How Beautiful!

Friday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
August 5, 2022

Today’s Readings

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/080522.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings offer me an invitation to write a more personal reflection than usual.

Recently, our community has experienced the deaths of two dearly loved sisters. Readers might remember that I mentioned Margery’s funeral a few days ago. And just yesterday, Clare Miriam died. Each of them was an amazing minister of the Gospel and lover of God’s poor.

See, upon the mountains there advances
the bearer of good news, 
announcing peace!
Celebrate your feasts, O beloved,
fulfill your vows!

Nahum 2:1

Because most of us live in communities – familial, social, and religious – we all move through ever-turning circles of hellos and good-byes. In those turnings, we touch one another’s lives in a thousand obvious and subtle ways, hopefully causing our own lives to spin ever closer to God.

Funerals – even though we don’t look forward to them – are times when the circling pauses. We see a beloved person’s complex and amazing existence like a still life masterpiece. We see the graceful details we may have overlooked or taken for granted. We appreciate the lights and shadows of their struggles and triumphs. We see God standing behind the easel of their story inviting us to deepen our own graces as we pray.

In a large and long-loved community like the Sisters of Mercy, we accompany one another through many funerals and many home-goings. It can feel a little heavy sometimes because of the love we bear another. But, oddly, it can also give an unexpected buoyancy to our hope and faith to honor these precious lives – one after another – so lovingly given, so faithfully lived, so beautifully completed.

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world
and forfeit his life?
Or what can one give in exchange for his life?
For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory,
and then he will repay each according to his conduct.

Matthew 16:25-27

After Margery’s funeral Mass, my friend turned to me and said, “What a tribute to a truly beautiful soul …. and we live in a community full of them!” Indeed, and now another, dear Clare has lifted her life up to God as the rest of us sing, “Brava! Alleluia! Amen!”

Whenever I attend one of our sister’s funerals, of course, I consider my own. Sometimes, while the soulful music plays, I design the Mass booklet in my mind and the cover says this: 

My dear Sisters of Mercy,
thank you 
for the privilege and gift 
of living among you!


Poetry: The Neophyte- Alice Meynell

Who knows what days I answer for to-day?
   Giving the bud I give the flower. I bow
   This yet unfaded and a faded brow;
Bending these knees and feeble knees, I pray.
 Thoughts yet unripe in me I bend one way,
   Give one repose to pain I know not now,
   One check to joy that comes, I guess not how.
I dedicate my fields when Spring is grey.
 O rash! (I smile) to pledge my hidden wheat.
   I fold to-day at altars far apart
Hands trembling with what toils? In their retreat
   I seal my love to-be, my folded art.
I light the tapers at my head and feet,
   And lay the crucifix on this silent heart.

Music: The Circle of Mercy – Jeanette Goglia, RSM

Alleluia: Shadows

Memorial of Saint Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
July 15, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/071522.cfm

Alleluia, alleluia.
My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord;
I know them, and they follow me.

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings are woven through with themes of life and death, time and eternity. These are fundamental realities at the core of our lives. Yet they are so huge in scope that they elude our comprehension.

Photo by Rui Dias on Pexels.com
  • How often do we ask ourselves, “Where did the time, the day, the years go”?
  • Despite all our acts of faith, aren’t we still undone by death and bereavement in our lives?
  • When we try to imagine heaven, doesn’t the image slip through our efforts like a wet sunfish lost back to the sea?

In our first reading, Hezekiah faces the same kind of bewilderment. Informed that he is about to die, he laments:

“O LORD, remember how faithfully and wholeheartedly
I conducted myself in your presence,
doing what was pleasing to you!”
And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

Hezekiah’s pleading gains him another fifteen years. (Would that our prayers could so prevail!) His bonus is delivered accompanied by a sign:

This will be the sign for you from the LORD
that he will do what he has promised:
See, I will make the shadow cast by the sun
on the stairway to the terrace of Ahaz
go back the ten steps it has advanced.


In our Gospel, Jesus doesn’t need bonuses or signs. Jesus himself is the embodiment of Life over death, Eternity over time. In today’s passage, the Pharisees try to judge and limit Jesus’s spiritual freedom by invoking the old law against him:

Jesus was going through a field of grain on the sabbath.
His disciples were hungry
and began to pick the heads of grain and eat them.
When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him,
“See, your disciples are doing what is unlawful to do on the sabbath.”


Jesus tells them clearly that he is the new law of mercy and love. He is beyond time, death, and the judgments of human law:

I say to you, something greater than the temple is here. 
If you knew what this meant, I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
you would not have condemned these innocent men.
For the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath.

Let’s pray today with our God Who is greater than time, death or human judgments. Let us trust that God has power over any shadow that might darken our lives.


Poetry: The Shadow of Thy Wing – Susan Dickinson (Emily’s sister-in-law)

Weary of life's great mart, its dust and din,
Faint with its toiling, suffering with its sin,
In childlike faith my heart to Thee I bring.
For refuge in "the shadow of thy wing."

Like a worn bird of passage, left behind
Wounded, and sinking, by its faithless kind,
With flight unsteady, seeking needed rest,
I come for shelter to Thy faithful breast.

Like a proud ship, dismantled by the gale,
Her banners lost and rifted every sail,
In the deep waters to Thy love I cling,
And hasten to the refuge of Thy wing.

O Thou, thy people's comforter alway,
Their light in darkness, and their guide by day,
Their anchor 'mid the storm, their hope in calm,
Their joy in pain, their fortress in alarm!

We are all weak, Thy strength we humbly crave;
We are all lost, and Thou alone canst save;
A weary world, to Thy dear arm we cling,
And hope for all a refuge "'neath Thy wing."

- "Original Poetry." Springfield Daily Republican, March 1, 1862

Music: Cavatina’s “The Shadows” played by 2Cellos

Wednesday of the Seventh Week of Easter

Memorial of St. Justin, Martyr
June 1, 2022

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Jesus and Paul continue their heart-wrenching farewell addresses.

We’ve become accustomed to the passages and may read them without much emotional investment, but honestly they are real “weepers” – like movies where you have to bite the edge of your popcorn cup to keep from sobbing out loud.


paul-s-farewell-to-ephesian-elders-sacred-biblical-history-old-new-testament-two-hundred-forty-images-ed-st-69560609
St. Paul Bids Farewell to the Ephesians

Look at Acts, for example, and put yourself in the scene:

When Paul had finished speaking
he knelt down and prayed with them all.
They were all weeping loudly
as they threw their arms around Paul and kissed him,
for they were deeply distressed that he had said
that they would never see his face again.
Then they escorted him to the ship.

Acts 20: 36-38

blessing

The verses from John are not quite so emotional, but picture yourself being prayed over like this. You sense that this is really a final blessing. You know these may be some of Christ’s last words you will ever hear.

Holy Father, keep them in your name
that you have given me,
so that they may be one just as we are one.

John 17: 11

As we pray with today’s scriptures,
we are reminded that
goodbyes are awfully hard.
We need to mourn them
within a community of faith
lest our hearts break
from their weight. 


So many of us, in these sorrowful times, feel the deep pain of those suffering senseless violence and unprovoked war. We can only imagine the loss of bereaved families in Buffalo, NY and devastated parents and children in Uvalde, TX. We feel anger and horror at the suffering of the Ukrainian people.

In the throes of such pain, we need to tell one another the stories of our loved ones, to sing together our belief in eternal life, to prove that we can still find joy in kept memories, to cry at the sight of one another’s tears, and to act for justice in the name of one another’s suffering. This is what Jesus did.

Jn17_11 keep

Let us find courage and sustaining hope in the core of Jesus’s message today:

Father, now I am coming to you.
I speak this in the world

so that those you have given me
may share my joy completely.

All that we love, and may seem to have lost, is preserved and transformed – complete and joyful – in the infinite love of God. 

We too can be there in our prayer. We may be shaken by loss, but we are confident in faith. We know and believe that we are all kept in God’s Name. That faith gives us the power to transform our wounded world.


Poetry: Hymn for the Hurting – By Amanda Gorman
Ms. Gorman is a poet and the author of “The Hill We Climb,” “Call Us What We Carry” and “Change Sings.”


Everything hurts,
Our hearts shadowed and strange,
Minds made muddied and mute.
We carry tragedy, terrifying and true.
And yet none of it is new;
We knew it as home,
As horror,
As heritage.
Even our children
Cannot be children,
Cannot be.

Everything hurts.
It’s a hard time to be alive,
And even harder to stay that way.
We’re burdened to live out these days,
While at the same time, blessed to outlive them.

This alarm is how we know
We must be altered —
That we must differ or die,
That we must triumph or try.
Thus while hate cannot be terminated,
It can be transformed
Into a love that lets us live.

May we not just grieve, but give:
May we not just ache, but act;
May our signed right to bear arms
Never blind our sight from shared harm;
May we choose our children over chaos.
May another innocent never be lost.

Maybe everything hurts,
Our hearts shadowed & strange.
But only when everything hurts
May everything change.


Music: Aaronic Benediction – Misha and Marty Goetz

Holy Saturday 2022

April 16, 2022

Jesus in tomb
The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb by Hans Holbein (c. 1522)

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we wait, entombed with Jesus. The waiting has a surreal sense every year as we commemorate this day with no liturgy of its own.  Within our Holy Saturday prayer, there is a depth of meaning that eludes words. So, let us turn to poetry as we daily do:

Eliot

Here are two poems that may help us explore the spiritual dimensions of Holy Saturday.

meynell

levertov

Music: God Rested – Andrew Peterson